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Getting Enough Iron

British Columbia Specific Information

Iron deficiency anemia means that your body does not have enough iron. Iron is important because it helps carry oxygen to all parts of your body. For more information on iron, see HealthLinkBC File #68c Iron and Your Health, HealthLinkBC File #68d Iron in Foods and HealthLinkBC File #69c Baby’s First Foods.

You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or you can Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian.


What is the recommended daily amount of iron?

The recommended daily amount of iron varies. Most people need the following amount of iron each day.footnote 1, footnote 2

Recommended daily amount of iron from food



Amount of daily iron


Ages 19 and older

Ages 19 to 50 (who menstruate)

8 mg.

18 mg.


Ages 19 to 50

27 mg.

Lactating (breastfeeding)

Ages 19 to 50

9 mg.


Ages 9 to 13

Ages 14 to 18

8 mg.

11 mg.


Ages 1 to 3

Ages 4 to 8

7 mg.

10 mg.

What foods are high in iron?

The foods you eat contain nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Iron is a nutrient. Your body needs the right amount to stay healthy and work as it should. You can use the list below to help you make choices about which foods to eat.

Here are some foods that contain iron. Most have 1 to 2 milligrams of iron per serving. Some have more. footnote 3


  • Apricots (dried), 1/4 cup (60 mL)


  • Asparagus (raw), 6 spears
  • Beet, Swiss chard, or turnip greens, 1/2 cup (125 mL)
  • Snow or green peas, cooked, ½ cup (125 mL)
  • Spinach, (cooked) 1/2 cup (125 mL)


  • Cereals, fortified with iron, 30 g (1 oz)
  • Oatmeal, instant, cooked, 3/4 cup (175 mL)

Meats and other protein foods

  • Beans (kidney, lima, navy, white), cooked, 3/4 cup (175 mL)
  • Beef or lamb, 75 g (2½ oz)
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), 3/4 cup (175 mL)
  • Liver of beef, chicken, or pork, 75 g (2½ oz)
  • Oysters (cooked), 75 g (2½ oz)
  • Sardines (canned), 75 g (2½ oz)
  • Soybeans (cooked), 3/4 cup (175 mL)
  • Tofu (soft, firm, or extra firm), 3/4 cup (150 g)

Work with your doctor to find out how much of this nutrient you need. Depending on your health, you may need more or less of it in your diet.



  1. Dietitians of Canada (2022). Food sources of iron. Dietitians of Canada. Accessed February 14, 2022.
  2. Unger SL, et al. (2019). Iron requirements in the first 2 years of life. Paediatrics and Child Health, 24(8): 555–556. DOI: 10.1093/pch/pxz148. Accessed October 24, 2022.
  3. Dietitians of Canada (2022). Food sources of iron. Dietitians of Canada. Accessed February 14, 2022.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator